The City of Santa Monica has restored civic funding to the Pico Youth and Family Center after receiving an emergency request from the organization at City Council’s June 14 meeting.

PYFC received $50,000 from the council’s discretionary fund for use as a matching grant with the hope that PYFC can double the donation. The money follows a year without any city funding for the organization and PYFC leaders said it is a sign of a new relationship between the organization and City Hall.

PYFC had received as much as $350,000 a year from the city since its founding in 2002. In many years, the city money amounted to 100 percent of PYFC’s budget, but council began to reduce its contribution during a time of increasing hostility between PYFC and City Hall.

By 2014, PYFC was receiving $190,000 and had an annual budget of about $420,000. In 2015 council cut all funding for the organization. City officials accused PYFC of failing to secure grant funding, poor management practices and financial mismanagement. PYFC accused the city of racism, corruption and personal vendettas.

PYFC director Oscar de la Torre said PYFC now operates on a budget of just over $300,000 a year but its solo fundraising efforts have only been able to raise about two-thirds of the total. The organization was able to raise about $100,000 from grants and community donations in 2015. Anther $100,000 is available annually from an ongoing bequest by the estate of local philanthropist Peggy Bergmann.

De la Torre said without the other $100,000, the organization would have been in danger of closing in a matter of months and the reality is nonprofit funding is becoming increasingly difficult. He cited the impending closure of the YWCA as an example.

“Here we’re trying to raise money and we’re a young organization, probably the youngest in the city in terms of youth services and established organizations are having a hard time funding, to the point where they have to close their doors,” he said.

De la Torre said changes within the city, specifically the hiring of Rick Cole as city manager, provided an opportunity to restart a partnership.

“We feel that the city should be a partner,” he said. “It’s very difficult to keep an organization, to sustain an organization without that partnership. The new city manager had provided an opportunity for us to work collaboratively on a common agenda to support our youth.”

The $50,000 will come from the city’s discretionary fund, a pool of about $492,331 that is used to support one-time requests from community groups. While some organizations, like the city’s business improvement districts, re-apply for money each year, others make one-time requests to support specific causes. Other organizations receiving money from the fund this year included the BIDs, Climate Action of Santa Monica, Grades of Green, the Church in Ocean Park and the Westside Ballet of Santa Monica.

Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer said he was impressed with the grant writing efforts and said it was time to move beyond past conflicts for the benefit of local youth.

“It’s worth noting that there have been some tensions between the adults involved in the issue of PYFC funding, but in the meantime my experience when stopping by the organization unannounced is that it remains a safe haven for a good number of at-risk youth,” he said. “Since the matching funds create the possibility that the doors will remain open to serve these kids, I felt it was time to put aside the differences among the adults and lend a hand.”

Ongoing funding for most organizations like PYFC is provided through the city’s human services grants that are issued on a multi-year basis. Councilmembers said they hoped assigning money from the discretionary fund would enable PYFC to stay afloat long enough to secure more external grant funding or possibly reenter the city’s grant process.

At Tuesday’s meeting, PYFC board chair Ruben Pacheco said the City money would support the needs of the community.

“We will continue to provide the youth with valuable services with your help,” he said.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...